Guide for first-time site visitors

Here we tell you about the ways you can navigate through the National Library of Scotland site. We explain what sort of information you'll find when you click on the headings in the top navigation bar. We also point out some features you might find generally useful.

A brief history of the National Library of Scotland is available if you want to know a little about our background.

Getting around the site

There are several ways to navigate through the site.

  • From the top
    The row of links at the top of the page gives you direct routes to key sections on our site. When you mouse over a section link, a drop-down menu will list the links to subjects there. Overview pages give you brief summaries of what is in that section.
  • Subject index
    If you are interested in a particular subject, you can check the browse by subject list or try our site search to find out what information we have on our web pages
  • Site map
    Another starting point is, of course, the site map, which will give you a list of the main subjects within each section
  • Footer links
    We've grouped together at the foot of the page some useful links to get you to particular areas of the site quickly


See items digitised from our collections

You can access online books, manuscripts, photographs and posters from our collections, along with web features on a range of subjects.

Read online journals and reference books

We have an extensive range of eResources (formerly called licensed digital collections) which you can access if you register with us and your main address is in Scotland. They include:

  • Hundreds of full-text reference works
  • Thousands of full-text newspapers, journals and reports
  • Hundreds of thousands of digitised books, periodicals and manuscripts spanning over five centuries
  • Millions of records and abstracts via online services and databases.

Many of these items are available to us by special subscription, and the full range is only available in the George IV Bridge Building reading rooms. You have to have a valid library card to use the reading rooms.


Search catalogues and databases

The search box we've provided has an options for searching the main catalogue and some of our online resources, as well as an option for searching the pages on this website. You can search other online catalogues and databases separately.


Learn about the collections

Library collections are maintained and developed by divisions of specialist staff. Most of the divisions have a section on our site where they provide information about their collections and services.

  • What is a manuscript?
    Sometimes what people might think of as a book is in fact a 'manuscript'. It may be handwritten, for example. These items are part of our Manuscripts Collections.

Using the Library

To use our George IV Bridge Building reading rooms, you need to get a library card from Reader's Registration when you first visit. You can register online to start the registration process and complete it when you arrive. There is guidance in the Using the library section on the kinds of card we issue and the proof of identity you need to bring with you to get one.

You'll also find details of opening hours, what facilities we have available and the different collections you can consult in our various reading rooms.

Practical information for people with disabilities is available, along with user guides to help specific groups — librarians, publishers, and researchers, for instance.

There are also links here which should be helpful if you are using the Library online.


About us

The About us section is where we post our policy documents and publications such as 'Discover' magazine and our Annual Review. We also have general information about the Library, including the Board of the National Library, and about specific areas of our work, such as legal deposit and preservation.


Online enquiry service

The National Library is part of a global network set up to answer general reference enquiries online. So if you have a burning question and don't know where to start to find the answer, why not Ask a Librarian?


Stay informed

We send out news monthly about future Library events and new developments in the Library or on our website. If you would like to receive our free email newsletter, we'll be happy to add you to the subscription list.

We regularly update our pages on Facebook and Twitter and the Library blog. See the social networking page to find out more.


Your comments

We always welcome comments about our website and suggestions for ways we can help people make the most of their site visit. Please email Alison Buckley at if you would like to let us know your reactions or ideas. Other contact details are on the contacts page.


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